In a World Cup that lacked any real breakout stars who secured a more lucrative club career off the back of their tournament performances — akin to James Rodriguez in 2014 — Harry Maguire could be the closest we get to seeing one this summer.
Maguire was one of England’s standout players in Russia as the Three Lions made their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years. As a result, it’s not a huge shock that a bigger Premier League club has shown in an interest in bringing Maguire to their club.
At the moment, the signs suggest that Maguire will opt to sign a new deal at Leicester, doubling his salary in the process as Manchester United were fended off by Leicester’s high asking price.
But it’s still worth hypothesising whether a move to Manchester would make sense for the centre-back.
Would Maguire suit a Mourinho team?
One of the first questions to be levelled at a centre-back switching teams is how they will cope in a different structure and system.
One only has to think of players who build their reputation as part of a tight defensive unit before transferring to a team who play a more expansive, open game, often with a higher defensive line to see how a move to another club could be problematic.
Michael Keane, for instance, was once ahead of Maguire in the England pecking order, getting called up in 2016 and making his debut in early 2017. However, after moving from Burnley to Everton in the 2017 summer he struggled in a dysfunctional team and wasn’t considered for the England World Cup squad.
Maguire could potentially fall into a similar trap if he moves up the league. At 6 foot 4, the Leicester man is a serious aerial threat but he isn’t the most mobile. He is a player who might be exposed if isolated in one-on-one situations.
In this particular instance, however, playing for a Manchester United side under Jose Mourinho could be a better fit than moving to any of the other top six clubs, who generally play more expansive systems than Mourinho’s men. United had the lowest possession figure amongst the top six last season, an indication of their willingness to sit deeper contain the opposition with men behind the ball.
Maguire’s height also allows him to be a significant threat on set pieces - as we saw at the World Cup - a strength that has often been paramount in Mourinho’s best teams. On the ball, the centre-half is also capable of carrying the ball forward in possession, a skill that could be more useful at a top six club than mid-table Leicester.
Is this his best opportunity?
The premise for potentially turning down Manchester United right now, would be that Maguire should have equally good offers in the future and that, right now, Leicester could the best place for him to play his football and develop.
The counter-argument to this would be that he might not get such an opportunity in the future. As the World Cup progressed, an increasing amount of attention was given to Maguire’s remarkably quick rise: playing in the Championship in 20115/16 and going to Euro 2016 as a fan, to playing, and starring, in a World Cup just two years later.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
But such rises aren’t always linear. Maguire may struggle to get the same attention playing for Leicester throughout the season compared to his England exploits this summer and the market for him could cool next summer.
Of course, this is just speculation. He could have a great season with Leicester and enhance his reputation further but such things are never guaranteed. If he were to turn down a lucrative move this summer, he might not get another chance quite so good.
One argument against going to Manchester United right now is the perpetual negativity of Jose Mourinho.
During pre-season, Mourinho has been showing many of the red flags associated with previous messy ends to his managerial tenure. As he enters his third season at the helm of the Manchester club, the fear could be that moving to United now could be akin to boarding the Titanic on its final voyage.
Maguire could also look at the case of Eric Bailly, another young centre-back Manchester United were willing to splash the cash on last summer.
The Ivorian justified it in the first few months of the season with many impressive performances. But after picking up an ankle injury in November, Bailly failed to win his place back upon returning amid speculation that Mourinho had lost faith in him after an own goal on his return against Liverpool.
The propensity of players to fall out of favour with the United boss has to be a concern for any player who could potentially sign for the club this summer.
A move to Manchester United would be hard for Harry Maguire to turn down were it to become a serious possibility. He would likely experience a serious improvement in his earnings and would get to play in the Champions League next season.
Maguire is still just 25 though and most likely has his best years as a centre-back are ahead of him. If he can resist the urge to a force a move right now, it could be the best thing for his development as a player.